10 August, 2010
The morning and early afternoon of August 10 weren't my most exciting - I finished packing, checked out of my hostel in Aix, then took a city bus to the bus station, and then a navette, or shuttle, essentially, to the Aix TGV train station. I wasn't sure how long the trips would take, especially with my shoddy luggage repair job, so I left plenty of time and ended up getting to the train station a few hours before my train to Lyon departed, but I would definitely prefer to be way early than to worry if I would arrive on time. The train ride itself was a couple of hours long and pretty uneventful.
When I was planning this trip, Lyon was another must-see city. It is considered by many to be the "gastronomic capitol of France;" however, I think that is in large part due to being home to restaurants of such renowned chefs as Paul Bocuse. And while I'm sure his restaurant is outstanding, with prix-fixe menus between 135-220€, per person... that's just a little above my budget. I wasn't sure whether more reasonably-priced restaurants might also contribute to this reputation. But I did know a little of Lyonnaise traditional cuisine. For the real deal, you want to find a bouchon - literally, bouchon translates to cork, as in the cork of a wine bottle; however, in Lyon, it is also the name of traditional home-style restaurant where you order a pot, not a bottle, of wine (it comes in a special 46cl bottle with a very thick bottom), and eat quenelles de brochet au sauce Nantua (pike dumplings in a crayfish sauce), poulet de Bresse (chicken from Bresse, a breed of chicken renowned in France for being especially delicious), or tablier de sapeur (a typical tripe dish made with a membrane of the rumen). After being impressed by maatjesharing and filet Américane in Brussels, it seemed pretty clear to me that dishes are considered "specialties" for a reason, and I shouldn't knock a dish before trying it - so I was pretty excited to come to Lyon and taste some of these dishes for myself.
When I arrived in Lyon, I took the metro to the stop nearest my hostel. From the metro, it was only a five-minute walk to the hostel; however, that walk happened to be over cobblestones and up a mountain - neither of which was particularly helpful when dragging my luggage, whose make-shift "fix" was completely destroyed. The upside, however, is that the view over the city on the way up was pretty spectacular:
I wasn't disappointed. Just as a note - if you see this in a restaurant window, it's a pretty good bet that you've found a really good spot for dinner:
Three major guides - Michelin, Petit Futé, and Routarde all give out recommendations (and stickers) for good restaurants; when you see a lot of stickers in a window, you can bet it's a good one.
I went in and asked for a table, but it was only 6:30 and the restaurant didn't open until 7:00, so I headed out to walk around the city a little to kill some time.
Lyon is a beautiful city. It sits on the meeting point of two rivers: the Saône, and the Rhône. As I discovered on my hike to the hostel, to the West of the Saône there is a huge hill, called hill Fourvière. The Northern part of the city is also on a big hill:
|View over the Saône to the North|
After getting around to see a little of the city, it was finally time for dinner.
Just upon walking in to the restaurant, they had an appetizer set up on all the tables - grattons:
|Grattons, fromage fort, et croûtons|
Now comes the hard part - ordering. There were a few prix-fixe menus. The least expensive was 28€ and came with three courses. But for 30€, you could have six courses. How could I refuse?
The menu started off with three entrées (appetizers). The first was pieds de "caillons":
Served at the same time as the pig's feet was a salade Lyonnaise:
Waiting for the third entrée, I had to make due with just my glass of Beaujolais and a basket of bread:
"Beaujolais day") was a nice light red wine. The bread had a dark, thick crust and a rich wheaty flavor.
The third entrée was a bowl of soupe des canuts:
I ate too much of each of the entrées because they were so good - I had no idea how much there was left to eat. Next there was the plat principal, the quenelle de brochet dans un coulis d'écrevisse:
At the same time they brought out the quenelle, they also brought the gratin aux poireaux:
Speaking of dessert, I opted for cheese rather than something sweet, and ordered the cervelle de canut:
And just when I thought I was done... there was a little hard candy that came with the check. It took me a while to place the flavor... it was pine.
If you ever go to Lyon, look up La Machonnerie. It's amazing. You won't be sorry!
Coming soon: Lyon part II, or why ordering six courses is a bad idea...